I never met Rush Limbaugh. But I wish that I had. It would have been like meeting the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. Or even Marconi himself. Rush Limbaugh was iconic. A symbol of what is great about America. The savior of my industry.

Limbaugh passed away on Wednesday following a courageous battle with stage four lung cancer. He was only 70 years old. The tens of millions of "dittoheads" who listened to Rush on the radio or read his books and social media commentary and knew of his illness also knew that this day was inevitable. That didn't make it any less difficult.

Rush was the American dream. A small-town kid from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Limbaugh began his broadcast career at 16 years old as a disc jockey at KGMO in his hometown. After a year at college, Rush ditched the books for life as a broadcaster. In 1988, Rush launched a nationally syndicated program, and "talk radio" was born.

In 1988 I had already been in "the business" for 10 years. At that time, AM radio was dying. Owners were pulling the plug on AM stations, particularly in small markets, because the stronger FM signal had made AM radio all but obsolete.

I was working at a small station in Plattsburgh, New York when we got a call from this guy named Limbaugh looking for stations to run his new program on a barter basis. In other words, we got to air his program for free and sell local advertising for it. What the hell? We needed to fill air space, and this was free.

I spoke with Rush on the telephone back then to discuss the program and commercial logs. We had each other's home phone numbers. It was strictly business. After a little while, I took off for Providence, and Rush took off for the moon.

Rush always asked folks to give him six weeks to see if his views about conservatism made sense. He hooked me. Rush Limbaugh taught generations of listeners that it is okay to be proud to be an American. That America is an exceptional nation blessed by God, that the Founding Fathers were great people, and that the Constitution is the greatest document ever written.

Rush Limbaugh mainstreamed conservatism by defending American values. He rose to prominence through hard work and determination and convinced millions of Americans that they could do the same. He gave Americans a voice and encouraged them to learn.

I never got to meet Rush Limbaugh. But I wish that I had. Rush was the best at what he did and will be sorely missed.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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